Audie Leon Murphy
Major, U.S. Army
Christian Hero of World War Two
Most higly decorated American soldier of the war
"There are no atheists on the battlefield"
The Angel of the Lord tarrieth about those who fear him and deliver them [Ps 34]
Alone and far removed from earthly care
The noble ruins of men lie buried here.
You were strong men, good men.
Endowed with youth, and much the will to live
I hear no protests from the mute lips of the dead.
They rest, there is no more to give.
So long my comrades.
Sleep ye where you fell upon the field.
But tread softly please
March oer my heart with ease
March on and on.
But to God alone we kneel.
Audie Murphy was the son of a poor cotton sharecropper in the South, the grandson of a Confederate veteran. He was born on June 20, 1924, the seventh of 12 children. His father abandoned the family in 1934. At 15 his mother died. He quit school to help support the family. He became a crack rifle shot to put food on the table, and he held the family together as the senior male.
At age 16 Murphy tried to enlist. He was too young and small for the Marines (5'5 112 pounds) or the Navy. The Army took him, but he could not get into the Airborne as he desired (probably too small to safely open the shoot back then). He was placed in the 3rd Infantry Division as a private. Over the course of the war he became the most decorated soldier of World War Two, was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the enlisted ranks, and received a battlefield commission to Lieutenant. He was credited with killing 241 enemy and no doubt wounded many others. He served in nine major campaigns while receiving 33 US medals to include three Purple Hearts and the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war he continued his service in the Army as a reservist advancing to the rank of Major, and joined the Texas Guard in hopes it would be mobilized for Korea. I commend the excellent on-line presentation of Major Murphy for a brief accounting of his victories... very well done. Here also is an article about Major Murphy from the Christian Science Monitor published in 1955.
Audie Murphy was encouraged to attend West Point after the war, but turned to movies (45) and singing. I recall him in his portrayals as a virtuous man, a man who taught a young generation of Americans the virtues of honor, courage, judgement, humility, and fidelity - he always wore a white hat. One of his most memorable films to me was the "Red Badge of Courage", the story of a Union soldier in the War Between the States that fled the battlefield in fear, only to come to a point of repentance, return later to that field, and earn back his honor. He joined the Masons, upholding their values and traditions (33rd degree Shriner). All was not perfect for Murphy; he suffered from Battle Fatigue (PTSD) after the war, and he had his bouts with addictions to medications and an expensive gambling habit.
Major Murphy said in his book, To Hell and Back, " When I was a child, I was told that men were branded by war. Has the brand been put on me? Have the years of blood and ruin stripped me of all decency? Of all belief? Not of all belief. I believe in the force of a hand grenade, the power of artillery, the accuracy of a Garand. I believe in hitting before you get hit, and that dead men do not look noble. "But I also believe in men like Brandon and Novak and Swope and Kerrigan; and all the men who stood up against the enemy, taking their beatings without whimper and their triumphs without boasting. The men who went and would go again to hell and back to preserve what our country thinks right and decent. My country. America! That is it. We have been so intent on death that we have forgotten life. And now suddenly life faces us. I swear to myself that I will measure up to it. I may be branded by war, but I will not be defeated by it. Gradually it becomes clear. I will go back. I will find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war. And finally - finally, like countless others, I will learn to live again."
Audie Murphy died in an airplane crash on May 28, 1971 at the age of 46. He had two funeral services, one in Hollywood, and another at the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas. His memory lives on in his contributions to his country. His decorations for valour are not likely to ever be matched.
We've not found a great deal about Major Murphy and his religious beliefs; but I feel confident that he was a God-fearing Christian, as is indicated in the quotation and poem which opened this page.Unlike his predecessor from the Great War, Alvin York, Murphy was not a vocal advocate for his religion. However, he stood firm for the veteran and for the values of his country, and I've no doubt that God was in his thoughts and heart throughout his service. In considering the amazing stories of men like Murphy and York, I wonder whether God has sent out his angels to watch over these men against such tremendous odds, as he did for Elisha, and which is affirmed in Psalm 34, for his good purposes.